Tim Kurkjian's Baseball Fix: When Kirby Puckett learned to do it all

You love baseball. Tim Kurkjian loves baseball. So while we await its return, every day we'll provide you with a story or two tied to this date in baseball history.

ON THIS DATE IN 1984, the Minnesota Twins' Kirby Puckett got four hits in his major league debut.

That tied an American League record. Late that season, Rangers general manager Tom Grieve stood at the batting cage watching Puckett rifle line drives all over the Metrodome. "If he learns to hit with power,'' Grieve said, "he'll be the best player in baseball.''

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Two years later, Puckett became the first player in major league history to hit 30 homers in a season after hitting zero home runs in a 500-at-bat season previously in his career. Puckett, who was only 5-foot-8, continued to hit with power and remained a hitting machine: In 1988, he became the fourth player to have three consecutive seasons with 200 hits and 24 homers. That same year, he became the first player since Joe Medwick in 1937 (the most recent player to win the National League Triple Crown) to have 234 hits and 121 RBIs in one season.

Puckett won six Gold Gloves in center field, routinely leading or being close to the league lead in putouts. But Puckett's Hall of Fame career wasn't about numbers. It was about that engaging smile, the one that could light a ballpark. And it was about his relentless energy. The night before Game 6 of the 1991 World Series, Puckett famously told his teammates to "get on my back tomorrow, boys, I'm going to take us home.'' And in Game 6, Puckett made a leaping catch and had three hits, one a walk-off homer.

"The best part of every day as a Twin was the 30 minutes before the game started,'' former Twins outfielder Randy Bush said. "All the media was gone, it was just the players in the clubhouse. And Kirby would walk through the clubhouse every night, get us ready to play every night. He was talking, patting guys on the butt. There was no one like Kirby Puckett.''

Other baseball notes for May 8

  • In 1963, Willie Stargell hit his first major league homer. In 1973, he hit a ball out of Dodger Stadium.

  • In 1963, in the same game that Stargell hit his first home run, Cubs pitcher Bob Buhl ended a streak of 88 hitless at-bats. In 1962, he set a major league record for at-bats in a season (70) without a hit.

  • In 2001, Randy Johnson struck out 20 in the first nine innings of an 11-inning victory over the Reds. Like everyone else who has ever struck out 20 in the first nine innings of a game, he didn't walk a batter.

  • In 1968, the Athletics' Catfish Hunter pitched a perfect game, and drove in three of his team's four runs.

  • In 2014, Rays reliever Brad Boxberger entered a game with the bases loaded and no one out, then struck out the next three batters on nine pitches.

  • In 2012, the Rangers' Josh Hamilton hit four homers in a game against the Orioles.

  • In 2014, Edwin Encarnacion hit his 200th career home run. He now has 414. With his next homer, he will break a tie with Darrell Evans for the most homers by any player whose last name begins with E.